Engaging children in chores is linked to a strong parent-child relationship according to research by the University of New England, which debunks the common idea that chores should be made fun.
Dr Shi Li, lecturer in the School of Arts, says that nowadays not many children are expected to contribute to household responsibilities or help look after aged parents and, consequently, spend little time helping with chores.
“The benefits of engaging children in chores are overwhelming; it fosters interpersonal skills, responsibility and empathy, and also achieves greater education and career success,” Dr Li said.
The Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) by Beijing University revealed that raising a daughter yielded a much better return than a son for old parents in need of affective care in China.
“And the most noteworthy is that sons-in-law perform better than daughters-in-law in providing daily care and affective comfort for their parents-in-law,” Dr Li said.
Although the research findings were indiscriminately attributed to gender difference in a family by the researchers of the CLHLS, a view consistent with that of Angelina Grigoryeva from Princeton University, Dr Li argues that it is chores that can explain why sons-in-law performed better affective care under influence of their wives (the daughters) than daughters-in-law.
“This suggested that engaging children in chores can help develop a strong bond between parents and children,” Dr Li said.
“Parental love does not naturally result in children reciprocating, which is evidenced by the serious social issue of the ‘me generation’ in major cultures such as China and the United States of America. As a result, without a sense of social justice, children will take parental love for granted and even think parents owe them.”
According to Dr Li engaging children in chores provides an ideal means for the development of a sense of social justice, as it is an active and consistent disciplinary measure and more effective than enforcing rules or imposing sanctions on them.
“As routine chores are laborious, monotonous and boring it works against the self-concerned nature of human beings. The commonly held view that chores should be made fun is not true,” Dr Li said.
“Engaging children in day-to-day chores are important to child development and we need to make parents aware of this by advocating in schools, communities and government organisations.”
To support his views Dr Shi Li has developed a three-dimensional mechanism encompassing parental love, induction and discipline for developing gratitude towards parents in children.